NEW YORK -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday his focus is solely on establishing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Hockey League Players' Association prior to Sept. 15, when the current CBA expires.
"I'm focused on making a deal," Commissioner Bettman said after a collective bargaining session with executives, legal counsel and players from the NHLPA that lasted a bit longer than two hours. "I'm not even exploring right now what we might or might not do on Sept. 15. That's not something we're focused on. We're focused on getting a deal done before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires."
In comments after the meeting adjourned Wednesday, NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr said business can be conducted normally after the deadline even without a new CBA in place.
"The law doesn't require that the industry shut down if you don't have an agreement," Fehr said. "Somebody has to choose to shut it down. At the moment I see no reason to do that on the players' side. Hopefully they won't either."
Wednesday marked the first of three consecutive days of scheduled collective bargaining sessions in New York. The sides have been negotiating since late June and met last week in Toronto.
Commissioner Bettman led the NHL's group, which included deputy commissioner Bill Daly, senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan, Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, and legal counsel.
Fehr led the PA's group that included special counsel Steve Fehr, legal counsel, and 15 players.
According to the PA, the players who participated Wednesday were Patrice Bergeron (Bruins), Jason Chimera (Capitals), Rick DiPietro (Islanders), Brandon Dubinsky (Rangers), Scott Hartnell (Flyers), Ruslan Fedotenko (Flyers), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers), Manny Malhotra (Canucks), Kyle Okposo (Islanders), Kevin Shattenkirk (Blues), James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs), Antoine Vermette (Coyotes), Kevin Westgarth (Kings), JT Wyman (Lightning) and Dan Winnik (unrestricted free agent).
Commissioner Bettman confirmed that the NHL made initial proposals to the NHLPA during Friday's session at the NHLPA offices in Toronto.
"They're proposals that we believe need serious consideration for us to move forward," he said.
Fehr said the meeting Wednesday was largely informational for the PA as it attempts to learn more about the initial proposal from the NHL.
"We got certain additional information," Fehr said. "We indicated that there is some further information that we've requested. Hopefully we'll begin to get that (Thursday), and begin to talk about some of the aspects of it."
Commissioner Bettman said dialogue is continuing between the two sides, but he reiterated the time element involved in the negotiation process.
"There is a relatively short window based on when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires and based on when the union was prepared to begin negotiations," Bettman said. "But, having said that, we're devoting as much time as the union wants in this process and we're going to work very hard to work it through."
Fehr confirmed that in the League's initial proposals they have asked for the players to reduce their share of revenue, which is currently 57 percent.
"They have asked for a reduction in the players' share," he said.
He added that the PA is "looking hard at" the proposals, and that they have not yet offered any counter proposals.
"We're not to that stage yet," Fehr said. "We will make our own proposals, whether it's a counter proposal to something they said or something on their own, when we're ready after we have fully digested what they've done, are sure we understand it, have had all the discussions that we need to have and all the internal discussions that we need to have. That includes a review of all the additional information that we think we need in order to do this, and hopefully that'll be forthcoming."
Dubinsky and Malhotra both said the players are now trying to get educated on the numbers in the NHL's proposal.
"It's going to take some time to get in depth and understand those," Malhotra said. "It's a long process, so instead of getting wrapped up emotionally and flying off the handle, it makes far more sense to be educated in what they're trying to propose and understanding it in great detail to make sure we know what to counter with."
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